Saturday, February 6th, 2016 02:04 pm
We get nurturingly attached to fish. I mean, not that fish aren't WORTHY or anything, but in terms of "animals that do not have any kind of body-language we can relate to, nor any signals that you'd EXPECT to make them resemble human babies or troop-mates", I give you: fish.

Go and read the whole thing, it's gold. (And also informative!)
Saturday, February 6th, 2016 04:24 pm
conversation between me and Tim, many years ago:

Marn: I've never pledged allegiance to the Queen... well, unless you count the Cub Scout promise. Come to think of it, though, I've sworn allegiance to her husband.
Tim: ?!
Marn: When you start at Cambridge, you have to promise allegiance to the chancellor, and the chancellor is Prince Philip. So presumably I'm still under an oath of allegiance to him.
Tim: ... that's wonderful. I wonder whether that means I've sworn allegiance to Peter Ustinov.

- Prince Philip was chancellor of Cambridge at the time of this conversation; he isn't now.
- Peter Ustinov was chancellor of Durham at the time; he's now dead.
- the Cambridge matriculation oath is currently: "I promise to observe the Statutes and Ordinances of the University as far as they concern me, and to pay due respect and obedience to the Chancellor and other officers of the University."
- the Cub Scout promise is currently: "I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God, and to the Queen, to help other people, and to keep the Cub Scout law."
Thursday, February 4th, 2016 08:54 pm
Successfully wrote a script to archive all my tags and also went back and basically privated almost everything.* I just want to have more of a fresh start. In that vein, I also put up a new theme from [community profile] coliseu that I'm still tweaking somewhat to make more responsive and whatnot, but I like it. Still need to go through my icons and figure out what I actually want to use of what I have, and maybe get some fresh ones.

Figuring out the xmlrpc interface while also trying to figure out Python was an interesting endeavor, haha. I have been working a lot with REST APIs through node at work, lately, but I couldn't figure out the exact syntax for setting up an xmlrpc request until I finally found some examples, thanks to old posts from [staff profile] mark and [personal profile] foxfirefey. After that it was relatively simple aside from not knowing how to use Python effectively. But hey, it works.

As a heads up, I'm probably also going to do a circle cleanup of what seem to be dead journals in the nearish future. I know there are some people who read and occasionally comment, but don't update, so if you're in that category let me know?

Going forward, I'm probably going to keep public posts largely art-related and announcement-type entries like this, with maybe some fandom stuff/essays/code if I feel like they're actually coherent enough to be 'public-worthy'. Everything else is currently just going to be access locked-- I might set up filters later if I find I'm posting a lot on one niche topic or something, but at the moment I'm not posting enough that I think it matters.

*This is a really specific-to-me case, but if anybody else would find a script to read their tags, write them to the entry, and delete the tags useful, I now have one. Though I didn't bother to handle the paging because ugh paging, so it's manual paging right now, which is slightly tedious but less so than hand-editing every entry.
Thursday, February 4th, 2016 11:16 am
I keep meaning to write an update to this post describing my listening habits from three years ago. A lot has changed since then, especially recently.

For one thing, I have a new car with native, hassle-free support for playing music on various electronic devices, so I've pretty much stopped listening to CDs in the car, except for the ones I borrow from the library. I haven't been listening to the radio as much lately, either.

For another, I subscribed to Apple Music four or five months ago. It's like Netflix streaming for CDs. If I see something I want to listen to at a later date, I can add it to my library and it will be there when I'm in the mood to try it. There are only two downsides I've found so far. One is that it only works with the newer versions of iTunes and iOS, so I only have access to it on my laptop right now. The other is that downloaded Apple Music tracks won't sync to iPods.

There are other features of Apple Music that I don't use as much. They have some decent curated playlists, but they tend to only be 10 or so songs each, and as far as I can tell you can't actually view the songs they contain except by playing through them. There are "stations" like Pandora's, but artist-based stations aren't as customizable, and their genre-based ones are too generic. Apple Music also recommends albums it thinks I will like, but I'm already familiar with most of them. Still, the ability to listen to pretty much any CD that's available on iTunes without paying for it is worth the $10/month to me, because I like to listen to a wide variety of different things.

I also signed up for Amazon Prime last month when they were discounting it - their new policy of 20% off newly released video games was what made up my mind that it would be worth the cost. But the variety of music available for Amazon Prime streaming is disappointingly paltry compared to Apple Music's deep catalog. Still, to be fair, Amazon has more of my purchased music in the cloud than iTunes does, their music app works on older iOS devices, and in the long term $99/year for all sorts of things is a better value than $10/month for just music.

I guess my point is that I'm using streaming services now more than I ever thought I would, considering my preference for listening to entire albums when investigating new music. In my case, Apple Music hits a sweet spot that the alternatives don't. And I still buy my favorite new releases, so that I can listen to them on the road - but these days I'm more likely to buy the digital tracks than the shiny disc.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 11:42 pm
I don't understand all the physics, but I read Justin Smith's as much for his writing style as the technical stuff. Here's a sample:
"If you`re using the Sky free channels (as opposed to Freesat) in order to receive all the available free channels sometimes need a Sky card . At the moment this is quite cheap but it is only available from Sky and anyone who has had dealings with them can testify that it can be a frustrating business..... In fact when Which? researched call centres in Jan 11 they found Sky was the worst, and they`ve got some decent opposition in that department, particularly Royal Mail, and (ironically) BT, plus all the broadband providers, obviously. That`s the modern trend, companies don`t actually want to talk to their customers, not unless it`s a voice activated computer. I never talk to them. Well actually I do, I swear at them till they put me through to a human being. You should try it, it`s very satisfying.

Some of the of the programmes on Freeview are not available on Freesat. As far as I am aware Dave or the UK History channel are not available on Freesat although the situation could change so you are advised to check. Apparently UKTV History changed its name in March 09 to “Yesterday”, and it also changed its Freeview MUX allocation. Yet another example of name changing bollox. Isn`t all this digital TV complicated enough......

On the other hand there are a few more channels on Freesat than on Freeview. So you might get 120 odd channels of crap *, instead of the 80 odd channels of crap on Freeview. Big deal. So you can waste even more time going through the TV guide confirming there`s nothing actually worth watching anyway. Life`s wonderful.

* Remember they aren`t all TV channels, some are radio channels. Who listens to the radio through a bleedin` satellite anyway ? That`s what I want to know. Whatever next ? Gas companies selling electricity ? And I bet they`d charge too much for it. The world`s gone mad."
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 05:12 am

Posted by karen

January has sped past.  I have managed to keep up with my personal goals, apart from the exercise ones.  I will need to try harder to sort out classes or soon it will be March and I will not be any fitter.

Most of my spare time is taken up with work on Big River.  I still can’t speak my lines with a Kentucky accent.  (An example of the Kentucky accent can be heard here on the International Dialects of English Archive.) I can say some of the words, but the majority of them elude me.  There are some words in my native accent that most English speakers would find hard to reproduce.  The Northern Irish version of “How, now, brown, cow” would make Henry Higgins despair.  But what I hadn’t realised was that my natural way of saying “how” would make it incredibly hard to change the word.  I can change the vowel sound but changing the position of the “h” in my mouth to start the word differently is tormenting me, and probably all those who have to listen to me try.  I’m a little horrified that I’m understudy for a character who has a Deep Southern accent, but I think I’ll tackle one accent at a time.

I have an audition at the weekend for a musical theatre class. I hate that audition songs have to be so short and I’m really struggling to cut the piece down to 1 minute so that it still makes sense.  I’m also breaking the unofficial audition song rules by singing Andrew Lloyd Webber.  “Unexpected Song” is not one of the more popular ones, so I imagine it will be fine.  I just can’t bear singing another ugly song, so I picked something with a tune that could be hummed by most people instead of the difficult Sondheim stuff I have been singing lately.

As usual winter is taking a toll on my health, but I’m trying to set realistic goals for each day.

“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”

-  William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 04:01 pm
As per [personal profile] vass, in a helpful comment with context (QWP):

- brush your lower set of teeth first, using a toothpaste with a pH between 3.8 and 4.2, and try not to bite the speculum.
- inform your gynaecologist if you are ovulating before the exam, rather than laying an egg on the exam table
- it can be difficult to conceal a set of furled wings while wearing an open-backed examination gown, but usually the doctor will let you change before coming in and then turn their back while you get onto the table, so as long as you're okay lying on your wings, they shouldn't see.
- don't expose your gynaecologist to bright light, don't let them get wet, and don't feed them after midnight.
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 12:48 pm
The new cold set me back a bit healthwise, but I'm back now to where I was two weeks ago, which is coughing more than I want to but not enough to really slow me down. Symphony chorus rehearsals started back last night and I was fine, if a bit relieved we only went 90 minutes instead of the full two hours.

Finally found a second car on Friday. It's a 2008 Subaru Outback that Robby found on Craigslist, and we only had to drive about an hour instead of all the way to Tennessee. Our first grown-up car was an Impreza and he really missed driving a Subaru. He is thrilled with the Outback. I am thrilled to have Benny the RAV4 back.

Finally saw The Force Awakens in IMAX on Friday night. Funny story: there was an accident on the interstate and we showed up at 7:10 for the 7pm screening, the last of the day. They had just closed the registers for the evening and couldn't sell us tickets - so the staff manager waved us in, no charge. So now I've seen it on the biggest screen available... but it still didn't feel as big as seeing the original Star Wars in a drive-in theater when I was six. I guess everything is relative.

Finally ordered the new Mac Mini I've been wanting for months. I decided to go with the 1TB Fusion drive, instead of all-or-nothing on the SSD vs HD option. Since it was a custom order, I won't get it until next week sometime.

I haven't set up the Windows PC for the kids yet, but I am making progress on the necessary house cleaning that needs to happen first. I decided to hold off upgrading my iPad to iOS 9, but I did update the kids' iPad and my mom's iPhone. I haven't helped my mom with her new laptop yet, but there will be plenty of time for that after this week, because her last day of work is Thursday. (I guess I'm burying the lede on that one, but yeah, my mom is finally retiring.)

So things are decent for the moment. Robby got the Christmas tree down. Our garage door broke last week, which was aggravating, but it got fixed Monday morning. The kids had their dentist appointments last week and their doctor visits are scheduled for President's Day. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning are going to face off in the Super Bowl, which should be pretty great.

February is always a busy month for me anyway because of the boys' birthdays. No firm plans yet, but that just means I need to be prepared to be spontaneous.
Saturday, January 30th, 2016 11:07 pm
Q: How does the term 'dolorous stroke' fit into the stories surrounding the search for the Holy Grail?

Answer (by me):

The Dolorous Stroke was when Sir Balin stabbed King Pelles in the genitals with a spear. This was even more unfortunate than it sounds, because the spear had also been used to stab Jesus during his crucifixion, and was therefore magic, and Bad Things begin to happen.

Pelles becomes unable to have sex, and he is therefore unable to have a son to be the next king. However, he has a daughter named Elaine, and he decides he'll use her sexuality instead.

Elaine has been trapped in a bath of boiling water by a sorceress. Sir Lancelot arrives, being all heroic, and gets her out of the bath, "naked as a needle" as Malory puts it. Pelles and Elaine get Sir Lancelot drunk, and Elaine uses her magic ring (honestly) to trick Lancelot into having sex with her. "Wit you well that Sir Launcelot was glad, and so was that lady Elaine that she had gotten Sir Launcelot in her arms." says Malory.

Next morning, Lancelot is angry because he thinks his strength depended on his being a virgin. I have no idea why-- girl cooties or something. Elaine then "skips out of bed all naked" (Malory is getting quite excited here) to tell Lancelot that she's pregnant. Pregnancy tests have evidently become less quick and reliable since the days of King Arthur.

Lancelot jumps out of the window and runs off. Nine months later, Elaine bears a son, Galahad, who has the same hangups about virginity as his father, and is insufferably priggish in every version I've read.

Elaine then vanishes from the narrative, since she's just a plot element. I would have said that the story was only interested in you if you have a penis, but then again there's Pelles.

Anyway, Pelles is frustrated and sad and infertile, and because of the magic, the kingdom starts becoming frustrated and sad and infertile as well. So Pelles has nothing to do except sit outside his castle fishing, and holding on to his long wooden rod all day. This is why Pelles is called the Fisher King.

When Galahad grows up, he becomes a Knight of the Round Table, and goes in search of the Grail along with all the others. Guess what? Pelles was actually looking after it the whole time. Lancelot and Galahad both find it, but Galahad gets to keep it because he's a virgin.

Now we find out why Pelles wanted Galahad to be conceived:

Galahad finds the same spear as before, which is now bleeding. He cures Pelles by thrusting the spear into the wound between his legs. No, seriously. Suddenly Pelles is no longer sad and frustrated, and the land becomes fertile again, and everyone's happy. But Galahad is still totally a virgin, of course.

(Bear in mind that these stories have been told over and over again for a thousand years, and the details change in the telling. Sometimes it's Percival rather than Galahad who finds the grail, for example.)
Saturday, January 30th, 2016 01:33 pm
Two new bugs, for a total of ten unclaimed issues. Holler if any of them look interesting to you!
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 05:29 am

[community profile] fandomweekly is a brand new multifandom weekly fanfic challenge community, where participants write a short fanfic (1000 words or less) based on a prompt. Readers vote at the end of the week for their favourite submission to decide a winner. Each challenge has two elements: a Weekly Theme and a Bonus Goal to meet.

The first challenge will be going up on Monday, February 1st. Please come join us!